Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Murder on the Riviera

Naughty in Nice, Rhys Bowen

This is the fifth book in Rhys Bowen's series of mysteries set in the early 1930s and featuring Lady Georgiana Rannoch.  Lady Georgie is a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and 34th in line to the throne.  Her father, the late Duke of Rannoch, blew the family fortunes in gambling losses, and her brother Binky inherited little besides crushing death duties and the family castle in Scotland.  Georgie has so far resisted the usual fate of minor royals, either marriage to an equally minor foreign prince, or service as lady in waiting to one of her agèd royal aunts.  But she hasn't found it easy to support herself, restricted as she is by her royal status, however far she actually stands from the throne.  She has, however, been drawn into several murder cases, and she has also taken on commissions for her cousin, Queen Mary.

It is the Queen this time who sends Georgie to the Riviera.  A valuable snuffbox, with a portrait of Marie Antoinette framed in diamonds inside the lid, has been stolen from Buckingham Palace.  Her Majesty suspects a wealthy industrialist, Sir Toby Groper, well-known for his obsessive collecting.  The Queen wants Georgie to retrieve the snuffbox from his villa in Nice.  Not steal - "Retrieve it, Georgiana. Sir Toby is the one who has stolen it."  Georgie also agrees to keep an eye on her cousin David, the Prince of Wales, who is in Nice as well, with Wallis Simpson.

Even before Georgie arrives in Nice, complications ensue.  There is a second theft, of a much more serious nature, and then a murder, for which Georgie becomes the main suspect.  The officer in charge of the investigations, Inspector Lafite, would fit right into one of the Pink Panther films.  A large and diverse cast of characters keeps the story moving.  It includes Georgie's brother Binky and his unpleasant wife Fig, who is pregnant; the birth of her child will move Georgie one step further from the throne.  Fig is a combination of the worst of Helen, Duchess of Denver, and Eugenia Wraxton, and I keep waiting for her to get her comeuppance. 

I have enjoyed each book in this series.  Though the difficulties of life in the early 1930s are clear, even for the upper class, the stories are fun and funny, and the settings are well done.  Georgie is a very appealing character, determined to make her own way, and I'm already looking forward to her next adventure.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!